Boonsboro students to compete in rocketry event

March 31, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

BOONSBORO - Three young Boonsboro model rocket scientists will trade in their book bags for the launch pad at a national contest in May.

Boonsboro High School sophomore Ameen Mirdamadi, 15, and Boonsboro Middle School seventh-graders Kayvon Mirdamadi, 12, and Brett Rosenthal, 12, will compete in the first Team America Rocketry Challenge May 10 at Great Meadow, The Plains, Va.

The boys qualified among the top 100 of 873 teams from across the United States for the event, which is co-sponsored by the National Association of Rocketry (NAR) and the Aerospace Industries Association. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration contributed prizes to the winning team.


Three other teams from Maryland also qualified for the national contest.

Their motivation to enter the contest, Ameen said, is the grand prize - the top five teams will share $59,000 in cash and savings bonds.

The top 10 teams will compete for three $2,500 grants to design, build and launch an advanced rocket with NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, and each of the top 25 teams will be invited to send one of their teachers to an advanced NASA rocketry workshop.

To qualify for the contest, the boys met March 9 at Middletown Park, a legal site for rocket launching, and under the supervision of Khim Bittle, the boys' local NAR mentor, set off a few of the rockets they had been working on for two months. The rockets were required to carry two large hens' eggs 1,500 feet into the air and then land by parachute without breaking.

Their rocket reached 1,575 feet and the rocket landed with their two eggs still intact.

"We're really happy," Kayvon said. "We feel lucky, kind of."

Ameen said the team lost two rockets and had to make some last-minute adjustments to its qualifying rocket before it ascended past the 1,500-foot mark.

"Before this, we barely did anything with rockets and we've really come a long way," Ameen said.

Bittle said when the boys approached him for help with making rockets, it was obvious they had little experience.

"They followed a path of design improvements learning from their mistakes and didn't give up earning a chance to participate in the national flyoff," he said.

In exchange for the team's $160 registration fee, the group was sent a box filled with products required to design, build and fly its rocket.

"They got into some really technical stuff that I didn't know anything about," said Samuel Lucas, chemistry teacher at Boonsboro High School and the team's adviser.

The boys said they plan to make building rockets a hobby, but they worry about a homeland security bill due to take effect in May that might limit the shipment of model rocket engines.

For now, they'll work on perfecting their qualifying model for the May competition.

"Practice makes perfect," Brett said.

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